Review Summary: Muse lures listeners with unconventional sound
British band Muse’s fourth album made its way to U.S. shelves last summer to an unfortunate, undeservedly lukewarm reception.
“Black Holes and Revelations” was released in the United States July 11, making its debut more than a week after it was released in European countries.
The follow-up to 2003’s “Absolution” sold 38,000 copies its first week in the United States and peaked at chart position No. 9 on the Billboard 200, but has been steadily falling downward ever since.
Singer Matthew Bellamy explained the meaning behind the title of the band’s fourth studio release in an interview for the September 2006 issue of Q Magazine: “Black holes and revelations -- they’re the two areas of song writing for me that make up the majority of this album. A revelation about yourself, something personal, something genuine of an everyday nature that maybe people can relate to. Then the black holes are these songs that are from the more... unknown regions of the imagination.”
There is no corresponding title track, but the title of the album can be found within the lyrics of second track and single “Starlight.”
Bellamy’s empathy-laden voice is slightly reminiscent of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s, if Yorke were a little younger and a little less laid-back.
He belts out painstakingly emotive lyrics in a falsetto tone that’s pure and raw, with gasping breaths taken in between verse lines that magnify the urgency and raw emotion behind his messages.
Track No. 5, short and sweet, supremely mellow and melancholy “Soldier’s Poem,” clocks in at just over two minutes. An anti-war ballad, it states “It’s a shame we’re all dying/And do you think you deserve your freedom” and “There’s no justice in the world/And there never was.”
“Assassin” has a faster tempo and a bit of a hard rock edge. The ninth track, “City of Delusion,” employs an orchestral-instrumental melody and a Spanish-sounding trumpet interlude.
The last track and first U.S. single, “Knights of Cydonia,” is an empowered anthem that asserts “No one’s gonna take me alive/The time has come to make things right.” It comprises a chorus to which all of the band members contribute, producing a vocal effect that sounds a little like old Queen, and an intro melody that has a bit of an "Old West" sound to it.
However, the standout track on the album is the fourth, “Map of the Problematic.” Part sentimental emo rock and part electronic dancehall number, it's an uber-contagious fast-paced track with poppy techno undertones about lost love and the desperation that comes with it (“I can’t get it right/Get it right/Since I met you”).
Lingering drum beats, pounded-out piano chords and punchy guitar riffs set the tone for each song, rendering each individual tune’s sound upbeat, depressing or downright sexual.
Given the endless sea of cookie-cutter and sound-alike bands in existence, Muse is a godsend, pushing the musical envelope with spacey background effects, diverse melodies and heartfelt lyrics. “Black Holes and Revelations” is an ambient modern rock masterpiece. Songs go from apathetic and almost painfully slow to desperate and hurried in a heartbeat.
Muse has cruised under the music radar for far too long, unlike better-known, over-hyped and under-talented acts to come from the U.K., such as Coldplay. What is currently one of the biggest musical acts in Europe barely registers a blip on the screen of the American music scene. This is unfortunate, given that the band is quite possibly one of the best bands to come out of England since the Rolling Stones.
“Black Holes and Revelations” is a supremely original record that delivers a different auditory experience with each song. Fans of post-modern experimental rock and listeners looking for something different will be very pleasantly surprised.